Jessica Rachow Interview — July 2018
What was your inspiration for writing the Murder by Munchausen series?
Most times, a scene magically pops into my mind that grabs my attention around the throat and starts squeezing hard—and I just know there is a story in it so I chase it so I don’t get strangled to death. For Munchausen, it was the police takedown of the android in a warehouse, which became chapter one of the first book. I saw the whole thing in my mind like it was a futuristic version of Cops. That being said, my subconscious mind is constantly being loaded up with a lot of muda (a Japanese word meaning “futility; uselessness; wastefulness”) and around the time I started writing the series, there was an awful lot of dire hand wringing in the news by famous tech guys like Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawkings about how artificial intelligence is going to be the end of mankind as we know it…yada, yada, yada. It was also around this time that I must have read the third or fourth submission of a zombie apocalypse story in the writers groups I’m in and I distinctly remember thinking that, you know, this zombie thing has been played out and there’s got to be a new villainous apocalyptic threat to mankind somewhere out there. Not too long after that, Jake and EC are chasing synthoid hitmen and serial killers.
Do you like audiobooks, physical books, or e-books better? Why?
I definitely like physical books better. Kind of an old school thing. And I buy into the theories I’ve read about how there is a much more intimate reading experience with wood pulp and ink because you are interacting with a genuine physical object, not only physically turning pages and all—but besides a width and height, there is depth, so that scene or phrase or character you met that you really, really like has a three dimensional location out in “meatspace.” And then honesty kicked in…But I almost exclusively read eBooks anymore. Why? Well, I can carry around my entire library in my iPad Mini without renting a U-Haul truck. Which means, I can read two or three or four books at the same time like I used to do in my college days. And ever since I bought one of the very first Sony eReaders, my reading throughput has skyrocketed. It’s just too easy. As for audiobooks, I actually just recently tried them out with The Devil in the White City and Slaughterhouse Five. But I get a brain cramp when I stop and ponder that I could be visually reading Plato’s Republic while at the same time listening to Huckleberry Finn.
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
Although I’m a licensed Commercial Pilot and Certified Flight Instructor, I am afraid of heights. In my defense (“As your attorney, I advise you to begin drinking heavily”) there is a big difference between height and altitude. Driving an airplane at 150 miles per hour or so wrapped up safely in an aluminum fuselage strapped into your seat with a five-point harness is a lot different than leaning over and looking down from the top of the Empire State Building. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?
Australia. Besides the whole weird marsupial fauna thing, I’m kind of fascinated by the fact that civilization—so to speak—decided to use an entire continent as a penal colony. And while I’ve had a character connection with Australia in Crossroads, I’ve never had a story set there. Of course, since Australia is so huge, I’d jump through all the necessary government hoops to be able to use my pilot’s license there and lease a Cessna 172 to see as much of the place as I could.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
Once I have the “magic vision” and actually get started pumping words into Scrivener, it takes 12-24 months depending on the length of the book, unless I get seriously distracted by something shiny—like airplanes or electric guitars. Life got in the way for a couple of decades and it took me over ten years to finish Somethin’ for Nothin’ and In the Black. But sometimes the scenic route is worth it.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of the writing process?
Working the story is my favorite part—creating characters and shaping the plot. After all that is the real creative part of fiction writing. For me, proof reading is the fingernails on a chalkboard part of the process of being a writer. Thank God, I was blessed to find Bee, an absolutely fantastic editor to work with, who has really made all my books shine. Thank you Elizabeth.
Picture this: You feel uninspired and you’ve sat at the computer for an hour without conquering any words. How do you get your creativity flowing?
That’s easy. I get up off my butt and go for a walk. For me, putting one foot in front of the other—whether it is on a trail through the woods, along the beach or pounding the pavement through the neighborhood—is like a mental colon cleanse. I find that if I just get out of my own way and stop trying so hard, my brain will figure things out quite nicely without my help. I know it works, because I do it all the time.
What is your favorite cover out of all your books? Why is it your favorite?
It’s a toss up between Murder by Munchausen and Lodging. They just seem to my artistically declined eye to most closely capture the essence of their stories.
Do you have any advice to offer inspiring authors?
My personal credo is: Persistence to the point of stupidity—but never beyond. So, never give up. But also remember, you are an artist with all the aggravating responsibilities that go with it. Mainly, you always have to strive to master your craft, which takes a lot of effort, sacrifice and even some pain—most often to pride. But readers will thank you. And you’ll be happier, too.